New training plan risks teacher shortage, study warns

Classroom Changes to teacher training add to difficulties recruiting trainee teachers argues a study

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Changes to teacher training in England may mean a shortage of recruits, suggests a study.

From September about a quarter of the funding for teacher training will shift from universities to schools.

But the study indicates about half the places on the government School Direct training scheme remain unfilled.

So far schools have accepted only 5,000 trainees, says leading teacher recruitment expert Prof John Howson of Oxford Brookes University.

The government wants 10,000 new teachers to be trained through School Direct from September. The idea is to give heads more control over training and guarantee more "on the job" experience for recruits.

But fewer than half this number have been accepted onto the scheme, the study suggests, amid complaints from schools about the quality of applicants.

Prof Howson analysed data on a government teacher recruitment website that tells would-be applicants what training places are still available.

'On-the-job'

The problem is particularly acute in science and maths, he says. A month ago he noted that less than a quarter of training places in chemistry on the School Direct scheme were being shown as filled.

He warns that with only a few weeks to go before the start of the academic year "there is no guarantee that a flood of high quality applicants will turn up at the last minute".

He adds that the transfer of funding away from university teacher training departments is likely to mean fewer new teachers trained by the traditional route.

"If schools don't fill these places, there will be a shortfall which will have to be filled," Prof Howson said.

He added that recruitment of trainee teachers could become increasingly difficult as the graduate labour market picks up, possibly leading to a repeat of the teacher recruitment crisis of 2001.

James Noble-Rogers, of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said it had no objection to greater school involvement in teacher training but introducing the scheme too quickly without co-ordination with universities may "destabilise existing teacher education programmes to such an extent a lot of them will be at risk of closure".

Ministers insist the scheme has been over-subscribed and say schools were right to pick only the brightest new graduates.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "The programme is proving extremely popular. By May around 22,500 people had applied for 10,000 places, and applications continue to rise. But it is right that head teachers are selective and choose only the brightest graduates best suited to their schools.

"Teaching is very popular. In fact, more top graduates and professionals than ever before are coming into teaching and vacancy rates are at their lowest since 2005."

'Better organised'

Head teachers have welcomed the School Direct scheme, but some say applicants have been poorly qualified and the scheme has not been properly advertised.

Russell Hobby, of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Schools are more than capable of leading teacher training, and can provide highly relevant preparation for a career on the front-line of education. The principles of this initiative are the right ones.

"However, the process of getting potential recruits to schools, and of allocating funding and responsibilities, needs to be far better organised than it currently is.

"This is an area where 'the market' will not provide the best solutions. Schools need clarity and certainty if they are to make the significant commitment of looking after a trainee."

Kent-based head teacher Ian Bauckham, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said his school was "enthusiastic about having a greater role in teacher training and have worked hard to try to recruit promising potential teachers".

"However in this area of Kent it has been very difficult, and as many as two-thirds of places allocated in some cases have gone unfilled," he added.

"If the issues are not addressed, we are fearful of a crisis in teacher recruitment in the future."

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